FREMONT — Fremont's Rob Lytle, an All-American running back at Michigan in 1976, died Saturday evening after suffering a heart attack. He was 56.
Lytle was taken by ambulance to Fremont's Memorial Hospital with symptoms of a heart attack, a hospital spokesperson said.
“Rob was a teammate and a terrific individual,” UM athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement. “It's a sad day because we've lost someone who was a great example of a Michigan man. Our sympathies go out to his family during this difficult time.”
Until the time of his death, Lytle was the vice president and business development officer at Old Fort Banking Company in Fremont.
A graduate of Ross High, Lytle enrolled at Michigan in 1973 and began a four-year career that when completed, placed him on the top of the Wolverines' all-time rushing list. A member of three Big Ten championship teams, Lytle carried the ball 557 times for 3,317 yards and scored 26 touchdowns. He currently ranks seventh at the school in rushing yards and 10th in all-purpose yards with 3,615 yards on 579 attempts.
“He was a great competitor and such a great leader,” said quarterback Rick Leach, a teammate of Lytle's at Michigan. “In my opinion, Rob was what a Michigan man is all about. He cared about the team, he cared about Big Ten titles and would do anything to make the team better. He took me under his wing to talk about football and life. I loved him like a brother.”
As a senior, when he ran for 1,469 yards, Lytle was named first-team All-American and the Big Ten most valuable player. He finished third in that season's Heisman Trophy balloting behind Pitt's Tony Dorsett and Southern California's Ricky Bell.
Toledo attorney Justice “Judd” Johnson was part of a group of area Michigan alumni that helped recruit Lytle and other top northwest Ohio prospects to Michigan. He last saw Lytle about five years ago at an alumni gathering on Catawba Island where UM coaching great Bo Schembechler was also present.
“Bo made the statement, which he's made before, that Rob's the best player he's ever coached,” Johnson said. “I believed it when he said it. Rob was the kind of guy that would do anything for you. He was the total team player. Very talented but not looking for headlines. He'd play his heart out for you.”
Lytle spent all seven seasons of his NFL career with the Denver Broncos, who selected him in the second round of the 1977 draft. As a rookie, Lytle scored on a one-yard touchdown in the 1978 Super Bowl, a 27-10 loss to Dallas.
He scored 14 career touchdowns and ran for 1,451 yards to go along with 562 receiving yards.